Saturday, 3 May 2014

One Doesn't Just Leave Trauma Behind

"Posttraumatic stress disorder is classified as an anxiety disorder in the DSM IV; the characteristic symptoms are not present before exposure to the violently traumatic event. In the typical case, the individual with PTSD persistently avoids all thoughts and emotions, and discussion of the stressor event and may experience amnesia for it. However, the event is commonly relived by the individual through intrusive, recurrent recollections, flashbacks, and nightmares. The characteristic symptoms are considered acute if lasting less than three months, and chronic if persisting three months or more, and with delayed onset if the symptoms first occur after six months or some years later. PTSD is distinct from the briefer acute stress disorder, and can cause clinical impairment in significant areas of functioning." [1]

Last night I was forced to relive the memories of early 2011. Memories I had managed to suppress for a while, to the point where when I saw a police officer the past months here in Germany I'd only experience a brief feeling of discomfort and wariness without consciously realizing why. Last night the memories of the brutal police beating and torture I experienced those years ago resurfaced for no discernible reason, however. Maybe it was just the brief pain in one of my wrists combined with a few other loosely related triggers which brought it all back, but once the flood of memories started, there was no end to it.

Recollections of footsteps behind me, of being thrown to the ground, of metal objects very nearly piercing the skin on my wrists. My screaming and begging. Someone sitting on top of me or banging my head violently against a car door. The forceful removal of my clothes and being thrown virtually naked onto a prison cell bed. Spending a night alone in a cell with the bright lights never turned off while watched on cameras. Screaming and crying the whole night until falling asleep from exhaustion. The assessment the next morning by a team of Dutch psychologists that I was doing fine and could easily spend another few days in the cell like that. Hours of uncertainty, of being let out to air. Watching the sky through the metal grid above the airing grounds and hearing cars and other noises. Having police officers force one back into the cell while feeling only terror. Being released at long last and knowing that you'll never be the same person again.

The next months I would spend recovering from my ordeal. Physically at least. From the nerve damage in my right wrist to the bruised bone of my right knee and the many scrapes and bruises I had suffered from the brutal treatment. The charges against me gradually got dropped one by one, as I had done nothing wrong. All of my actions before the arrest were due to the years of psychological abuse by Dutch physicians, something even the judge presiding over my case found hard to deny. Thus things got slowly smoothed over as my scars and bruises faded. Yet the psychological trauma never faded.

I think that my recent advances in Germany in getting the medical treatment I need are partially responsible for triggering these memories, as it's all related. I have one surgery appointment in over two months already and am working on two other appointments for a second opinion on the surgery. It's all going so smoothly, it's amazing. Here in Germany no physician calls me crazy, or pretends that I'm just a silly transgender person with delusions. Both my GP and gynaecologist have expressed how interesting they find my case and how they enjoy dealing with something new. Yet even through these positive experiences the traumas can and will get triggered, for the simple reason that it's all linked.

Earlier today I figured that maybe I shouldn't be writing this post. That writing about my traumatic experience with the Dutch police would be a bad idea. Maybe it isn't a good idea. I already found out a few paragraphs ago that I can not write about it without beginning to cry. Maybe it's a good idea, as it gives the pain a way out. I do know that this is the point where I need to actively find help for my PTSD, as it's far too much for a single individual to deal with. I also expect the flashbacks to get worse over the coming months in the run-up to the surgery and with the second opinions.

Finally I hope to not have to visit the Netherlands this year any more. I would like to forget for a while that such a country exists and with it maybe reduce the impact of the traumatic experiences I suffered there.




Russell McCarten said...

Be well. I know writing helps me deal with my stress. I am sure it is the same for you. My thoughts are with you.

Patrick Horgan said...

I have the same ambivalence about talking about or writing about my PTSD. With trauma suppressed I go through my days, a bit depressed, but fairly normally. Life is ok. I am creative, I write poetry and stories and kick-ass software. When the trauma raises its head I get self destructive and quickly suicidal. It's like being scalded by boiling water. Is it safe to try to deal with it? I don't know, and infuriatingly enough, when I talk to therapists they won't just say if it is safe. They just smile and nod. "Oh, yes, I see you have a concern." A concern? This is my life. If I can't bottle this back up, which doesn't seem possible, or deal with it, I am likely to die. That's not a pleasant thought. So that's a long way to say that I don't know if writing it was good or bad, but it made me feel less alone. I am sorry that you have had to have horrible treatment from those who should have instead protected you. You are often in my thoughts and I always wish you well. Stay well, Maya:)